Prof. Dr. Oliver T. Wolf, Cognitive psychology, Faculty of Psychology

Oliver Wolf

Research Programme:

My main research interest focuses on the influence of emotions on cognitive processes. More specifically, my lab investigates the influence of stress on learning and memory in humans. In some studies, stress is induced in the laboratory using several well established stress paradigms.

In other studies, a pharmacological approach is taken and the stress hormones which are of interest (e.g. cortisol) are administered. Learning and memory is typically assessed behaviourally via cognitive tests. However, in recent years, a growing number of collaborations have investigated the effects of stress hormones on the brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

In addition, I am also interested in sex differences and age differences in cognitive functioning. Here also a psychoneuroendocrine approach has been taken. In this context the influences of gonadal steroids (testosterone, estradiol, progesterone) as well as the impact of age associated changes in the glucoregulatory system (glucose intolerance and diabetes) were studied. Besides cognitive tests neuroimaging tools (structural and functional MRI) were applied.

Recently, another line of research has developed focussing on social cognition (theory of mind). Current and future studies will elucidate the influence of neuroendocrine alterations (stress, menstrual cycle etc.) on this complex human mental function.

Description of PhD projects that can be offered to IGSN students:

  • Influence of acute stress on learning and memory in humans
  • Academic stress: What is stressful for a student?
  • Neuroendocrine evaluations of anti-stress interventions
  • Changes in stress hormones across the human lifespan
  • Sex differences in cognitive performance: Influence of sex steroids?
  • Sex differences in social cognition: Influence of sex steroids?

Description of methods and practical courses that will be offered to IGSN students:


  • Assessment of neuroendocrine stress markers
  • Measurements of different memory domains
  • Measurements of social cognition
  • Stress induction in the laboratory


  • Psychoneurondocrinology
  • Hormones and the brain
  • Stress research in humans: Possibilities and limitations
  • Cognitive aging: Impact of hormonal alterations